Week #6: OHV Coronavirus update

| Suzy Johnson | Access Issues

As we go into the sixth week of this “shelter in place order” there looks to be light at the end of the tunnel. This week, 16 states are taking the first steps to reopening and putting their people back to work.

In California six Northern California counties: Sutter, Yuba, Butte, Tehama, Glen, and Colusa, have united together signing a letter from District 3 Assemblyman James Gallagher and District 3 Senator Jim Nielson to Governor Newson demanding special consideration to allow these counties to “open up.” Other signatories on this letter include the mayors of Marysville, Live Oak, Yuba City, Wheatland, Paradise, Oroville, Gridley, Biggs, Williams, Corning, Tehama and Willows. They are citing the low Coronavirus infection rates as justification to allow local authorities to implement reopening local economies and get people back to work.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has outlined his preconditions for a slow reopening of the state’s economy. California businesses seen as presenting less risk of spreading the Coronavirus could open soon under a plan the governor recently unveiled, the first of several slow steps toward easing the statewide shutdown order. “We believe we are weeks, not months, away from making meaningful modifications” in the current restrictions, Newsom said.

But Newsom's announcement of a four-phase plan did not come with a guaranteed timetable. He said while current public health indicators such as hospitalizations and testing capacity look promising, additional progress needs to be made.

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused many events from all over the country to be postponed or canceled. Here are two more events, both well over 100 years old that were canceled or postponed:

The California State Fair organizers have decided to cancel the 2020 State Fair.  The event typically employs about 800 seasonal workers and last year drew more than 600,000 visitors. The fair staff had hoped that the State Fair would have been able to continue its 166-year tradition this summer, but the effects of the Coronavirus will continue to be felt for the foreseeable future. This is the first time the fair has not been held since World War II.

The 146th Kentucky Derby has also been rescheduled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The direct economic impact of the Kentucky Derby season was projected to be more than $410 million this year, far exceeding other events as the top tourism driver to the region annually.

Here is an update on popular OHV areas:

White Pines OHV Area

The Stanislaus NF has temporarily closed all access to the extremely popular riding area in the White Pines area. The White Pines OHV Area is on Hwy 4 near Arnold and has always been a very popular location with motorcycle and ATV riders. The Stanislaus NF Public Health and Safety Road Closure order is effective through April 30.

Los Padres National Forest

The Los Padres NF has issued a closure order temporarily closing most of the forest’s major roads, trails, and trailheads through June 1. The park officials say this is an effort to support social distancing and ensure the health and safety of visitors, volunteers, and employees. Forest officials say this closure is a temporary measure. They will continue to monitor the circumstances of Covid-19 and follow state, local and CDC guidelines.

Mendocino National Forest 

The United States Forest Service is ordering the temporary closure of all OHV trails in the Mendocino National Forest until April 30, due to concerns of overcrowding during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Forest Service stated that the “trails were drawing increasingly heavy traffic and large groups of people where social distancing is not possible. Additionally, users travel through and stop in communities adjacent to the forest before accessing riding areas which could potentially contribute to exposure risks to local residents.”

Lake Tahoe

In an effort to keep nonessential travel to a minimum, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors last week unanimously voted to approve an emergency ordinance to issue administrative fines for those who violate the county’s order regarding travel into the El Dorado County portion of Lake Tahoe.

The county’s order prohibiting nonessential travel into the Lake Tahoe Basin is punishable as a misdemeanor, yet because inappropriate travel continues to occur, the board must take more aggressive measures to stem the tide of visitors and others who are traveling to Lake Tahoe in order to protect the low numbers of confirmed cases in El Dorado County and prevent needless impact on local health care and other resources.

Tahoe National Forest

Most motorized routes and trails remain closed through April 30, 2020. The Tahoe National Forest has issued a Forest System Road Closure Order postponing the opening of most motorized roads and trails that have a seasonal closure date, due to a considerable amount of rain and snow that occurred during the month of March across the Tahoe National Forest.

The Tahoe National Forest will provide an update next week with the conditions of all routes and trails before they OPEN on May 1, 2020. As of now, soil moisture conditions on the Sugar Pine OHV system is trending toward favorable and allowable riding conditions. The westside of the Burlington Motorcycle Trail system is also trending to toward favorable and allowable riding conditions. The Downieville multiple use trail system will still have moderate to heavy snow in higher elevations and connection routes to higher elevations will be impassable. The Boca/Stampede area OHV system soil conditions are also trending toward favorable and allowable riding conditions.

For those motorized trail systems that look to have favorable and allowable riding conditions by May 1, 2020, the Tahoe National Forest will be working in the field to clear down trees and inspect all trails.

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest  

At the request of Alpine County in California, all Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest lands within the boundaries of the county will be temporarily closed to overnight camping starting on Saturday, April 25, 2020. This temporary closure is to support state, county, and local authorities in controlling COVID-19 pandemic.

USFS Region 5

Regional Forester Randy Moore issued a Closure Order for all developed recreation sites across all National Forests in the Region. Closing any site for any reason is not one the Forest Service takes lightly; the Forest Service’s highest priority is ensuring our employees and visitors remain safe as we support mission critical functions for the people and communities we serve. The Forest Service will be working with our state and local partners to determine the best path forward to safely reopening closed sites.

Eldorado National Forest

The Eldorado National Forest will lift the seasonal closure of dirt roads and motorized trails beginning Friday, May 1. The seasonal closure is designed to protect roadbeds and watersheds from damage and to protect water quality. A minimum three-month closure period from January 1 through March 31 was designated for the core part of the wet season in the Eldorado National Forest Travel Management Plan. This plan also allows the seasonal dirt road closure to start earlier or be extended based on actual conditions each year. Due to heavy precipitation in March, the seasonal closure was extended to April 30 this year.

The seasonal closure does not affect routes in the Rock Creek Area near Georgetown, which has its own wet weather closure process for motorized trails. Non-motorized trails throughout the forest do not have a seasonal closure.

If you do plan to visit the Eldorado National Forest, please be aware that:

  • No trash removal is currently offered – please pack out all trash and waste
  • All toilet facilities are currently closed – please plan accordingly
  • Avoid high-risk activities – law enforcement and search and rescue operations may be limited 
  • If an area is crowded, please search for a less occupied location


Slowly some areas will be opening back up, and many of the National Forests will begin to lift the seasonal closures on May 1 unless they decide to extend the seasonal closures dates due to the snow depth, snow runoff or maybe even Coronavirus health concerns. Many local, state and federal agencies are beginning to look at reopening OHV areas soon. 

California State Parks is currently working on plans on how they would reopen the SVRAs, while ensuring for appropriate public safety for visitors and staff.

If you choose to recreate outdoors, please make sure the facilities are open before you head out and check for any travel restrictions. Please follow all local, state and federal guidelines.
Do your part – Make sure to pack out what you pack in and remember to always stay on designated routes.

Stay safe and healthy…

Jeff Blewett

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